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Ocean City of Years Past

For many families, visiting Ocean City is a summer tradition. Some of the older folks who have been vacationing here for decades can still remember when the boardwalk wasn’t past 33rd street. In some ways, barely anything has changed: the beach and boards have been here seemingly forever and Coastal Highway will eternally be lined with hotels, motels, mini golf and Dumser’s. But there are subtleties that make the town just a little different from year to year, too: businesses come and go. Amusements are replaced and remodeled. Sky-grazing condos are built and uninitiated families are constantly discovering all the joys that OC has to offer.

It’s these little differences that spawned a thread on our forum in 2004 called “Reminiscing – Ocean City of Yesteryear.” A user by the name of songbird made the first post and opened up a nostalgia-inducing six-page-long discussion that continues to this day. On the thread, users share their memories and reflect on the restaurants, motels and rides that they frequented back in the day, some of which still exist and others that have been sadly lost to the sands of time.

I discovered the thread when I was looking up old pictures of my favorite place on Earth, the Trimper’s Haunted House, which has undergone tons of renovations and changes over its 50+ year history. I love old haunted houses and dark rides, so when I stumbled across the forum, I thought maybe someone would have some old Trimper’s haunted house photos to share. What I discovered was even better. I’d never even heard of the spooky old walk-through ride on the boardwalk that haunted families for 20 years, but sure enough, someone had old pictures of Morbid Manor to share with others who remember the defunct haunted house. This is one of my favorites of many cool finds from the “Reminiscing” forum.

Morbid Manor
Morbid Manor in the early 90s. More on this place later.

Below are some notable posts from “Reminiscing,” and if you’re interested, you can read more or add your own right here. Some people want to know what ever happened to their favorite old jaunts, so after a little research, I was able to compile a bit of information about such places of Ocean City’s past. Others, it’s like they never existed – not even a mere mention online other than on the thread. So if you remember any of these old places, be sure to search your scrapbook for pictures and share your memories with fellow vacationers.

From JJ_Walters:

“Most of my memories come from circa 1980s:

– The old haunted house at the Pier Rides. I can’t remember the name of it now, “Haunted Manor” or something like that. It was a fantastic, walk-through haunted house. Great interior design work, and very scary. At one point, they had a guy who would chase you out at the end with a chainsaw! They don’t make haunted house attractions like this anymore. I think it closed in the lates 80s or early 90s.

– Bozo the Clown at the Pier Rides. He sat in a cage and you tried to dump him in the water by hitting a target with baseballs. Nothing special about this, but it was Bozo himself who was, how shall I say it, “unique.” This guy would taunt you with all kinds of derogatory insults! “Your girlfriend is so ugly…” – That kind of stuff. Not exactly family friendly stuff, but for a teenager, it was hilarious! Bozo got the boot sometime around the late 80s, early 90s.

– Freak Street! AKA S. Division street. The street that leads into Trimper’s Amusement Park. Back in the 80s this street was known as “Freak Street” because it was the main hangout spot for “Metal Heads” and “Punks.” On any given night, you would see dozens on them just, well, hanging out! Again, this O.C. tradition ended sometime in the late 80s, early 90s. Loitering is not allowed there anymore.

– Elvis, AKA “Norman.” Elvis was a well know OC institution for over 30 years! All day, every day he would cruise up and down the boards in his polyester shirt and pants and cowboy hat, while carrying an old 8 track cassette recorder (which always played Elvis tunes), while humming along with a kazoo. My Dad knew him from the 60s. I know him from the late 70s and 80s. I have not seen him in years. He may have passed away, but I am not sure.

– Lombardi’s Pizza on the boardwalk. Best damn pizza in OC They closed the boardwalk shop several years ago, unfortunately. They still have one in North OC.

– The Day the Moose Fought Back. Well, not really, but one night in 1988, some drunk patron at the Purple Moose Saloon ripped the moose head off the wall and threw it through the front window! Must have scared the hell out of people walking past it on the boards.

– The George Washington Hotel is on fire! I remember it well. I was at the Atlantic Hotel (The best hotel in OC I might add. We always stay there) when we heard all of these sirens. The hotel suffered major damage and never reopened. It was one of the oldest hotels in OC.

– The Wild Mouse ride at Trimper’s. Extremely fun Wild Mouse ride that was operated by a very scary looking man. He had literally two or three teeth in his mouth and he was always covered in grease! This ride closed sometime in the late 80s.

– Laughing Sal from the early 30s! I really miss her! Ok, just kidding.”

From DianeR:

“Geez, I remember Elvis from the 70s and 80s. I’ve been going to OC since about 1974 and almost every year since 1990. I remember the haunted house also from the 70s. My favorite and still a tradition for us is Tony’s pizza. It used to be this dark, long, narrow pizza and beer place before they remodeled and put in windows on the side and added the upstairs and made it a family place…I also remember riding the bus all day for something like a quarter when I was 14-15…”

From ML:

“The Back of the Rack had Castle in the Sand’s 25 cent beers beat with their Nickel Nights. God what a free for all those could be, but soooo much fun. That was the first place I ever saw Great Train Robbery play back in the early 80s. Of course, what was the Rack is now Fortress Ocean City (the police department).”

From Phil:

“I have fantastic memories of a summer spent in Ocean City in 1988 on a student exchange from England. I nearly ended up at the wrong OC from the bus station in New York, but luckily spotted my mistake at the last minute. Met a great bunch of English and American students and between working at Dayton’s Chicken and Seafood for two interesting characters, Paolo and Eddie, spent most of the time partying. I still have the t-shirt from the Surf Rat Café, and can just about remember Talbot Street Café and a place lower than 1st street, I think called Bush’s?

Dayton’s was a great place to work, with amazing characters like Smokey, Tina, Jimmy-Dee, Dee, Darlene and Brett – who really should have been in Las Vegas. I spent the time washing dishes and failing badly at chatting up the waitresses (it was only later that the English accent started to work…) It looks like the place has moved up the peninsula now as this was somewhere between 1st and 3rd street if I remember correctly. The soft-crab sandwich was the big thing, but as impoverished students, we were given the leftover fried chicken at the end of the night and basically lived on that all summer (something you can only do at 19).
I remember the fantastic boardwalk, the amazing beach and for some reason, the Cure playing loud on the speakers at the fun fair on the pier. Our flat was less good. Just behind 1st street, the toilet at the end of a bed behind a curtain – class!”

From Madman:

“Samantha’s and Scandal’s were the best clubs for hoppin’ night life! Let’s just say that Labor Day weekend in ’88 will live in infamy for me and my friends! ‘Nough said. Almost all of those clubs have either closed down, changed names, or moved. Samantha’s was the first to close in ’90. Tiffany’s and Graffitti’s are gone. Scandal’s moved in the old Samantha’s location before closing in ’05. But the Paddock was still open in ’07, as was the Purple Moose on the boardwalk (and DJ Batman, who used to do the “Best Body on the Beach” contests, was STILL there in ’07!).

For munchies…Soriano’s…Thrasher’s French Fries (hold the vinegar)…the Dough Roller for breakfast…pizza on the boardwalk near 5th Street! (I forget the name of the place)…Dumser’s Dairy (for custard ice cream like Dairy Queen)…Dayton’s Chicken for the BEST fried chicken and soft shell crabs, on the boardwalk by the pier at South Division Street…and the Bull On The Beach for awesome bbq roast pork and roast beef sandwiches.

What I loved best about OCMD was that it was clean, it had a little bit of everything for everyone, and you had all sorts of people from all walks of life – different cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, incomes, all ages from babies to octogenarians, single people, families – and everyone had smiles on their faces.

And I always liked seeing the beautifully done Christian-themed sand sculptures at the beach by North Division Street. From what I understand, the job of doing them had been handed down over the years (Chuck Ritchley Sr. and Randy Hofman were two of the men who’ve done them).”

So what became of some of these old Ocean City landmarks?

Morbid Manor

This two-and-a-half story walk-through sat on the boardwalk near the Inlet from 1975 to ’95, and looked more like an actual abandoned house than an amusement park ride. The Manor was designed by legendary dark ride creator Fred Mahana, who is best known for rides like Dracula’s Castle and Theater of Blood in Wildwood, NJ.

Morbid Manor
A view of Morbid Manor from the beach in 1983. Photo from ochh.net by Gerald U.

Mahana didn’t design the Manor for the faint of heart: actors, mostly theater students on summer break from college, donned terrifyingly realistic monster makeup and costumes and chased visitors with chainsaws and shrill screams and moans. According to ochh.net, many of the ride’s employees had an especially personal relationship with the haunted house:

Unknown to many, the Manor was a hip place off-hours. The management and workers of the ride would often hold band practices behind closed doors and sleep there throughout the nights despite a lack of air conditioning and uncomfortable 100 degree beach temperatures.

Unfortunately, in 1995, only a year after Morbid Manor had undergone interior and exterior renovations, the Manor burned to the ground in a fire that was likely the result of an electrical malfunction. The ride had a sprinkler system in place, but it had been turned off to keep the pipes from freezing during the winter months, and fire crews were unable to salvage any of the building.

Morbid Manor fire
The fire blazes on in November 1995. Photo from an article published in Ocean City Today.

Laffing Sal

Thankfully (to some, at least), Laffing Sal is still laughing it up in Ocean City today. In the 1940s, Sal guarded the front of Jester’s Fun House, an amusement site that Sportland Arcade occupies today. The Fun House was demolished in the 70s, and in 1980 Sal was restored and donated to the Ocean City Life-Saving Museum at the Inlet. Sal now stands behind a glass window on the museum’s second floor, and with the push of a button, you can make her laugh and jolt around just as she did in the 40s. Some say she’s haunted, and rumors say she’s been known to start laughing and gyrating all by herself . Whether that’s true or not, you’ll have to find out on your own.

Laffing Sal
Laffing Sal in her new home at the Life-Saving Museum.

Wild Mouse Coaster

According to those who remember this particular coaster, the Wild Mouse was also known as the Monster Mouse and was located at the beginning of the boardwalk from the 1960s to the mid-80s. The ride originally belonged to Melvin’s Amusements, which is thought to have been purchased by Trimper’s in the early 70s.

Trimper's brochure
On the cover of this Trimper’s brochure from the late 70s, you can see part of the Wild Mouse track in the lower left corner.

Boardwalk Elvis

Norman Webb, otherwise known as Boardwalk Elvis, has been entertaining his fans up and down the boardwalk for decades. He’s a legend in these parts, and today the King lives on at 78 years old. You can still see him biking around the Ocean Pines area, sometimes in full Elvis regalia.

In 2013, Webb was hit by a car while riding his bike, but was able to walk away with only a few minor injuries. His bike, on the other hand, was smashed to pieces. After hearing about the accident, “The Rude Awakening” radio show raised $678 in under an hour and bought beloved Boardwalk Elvis a new electric bike with a back-up battery, lights and a basket.

Boardwalk Elvis
In his heyday, Boardwalk Elvis would sign custom postcards like this one for his adoring fans.


Don’t worry – Bozo, too, lives on. According to forum user Danny Jr:

“Bozo was a hilarious guy, I’ve known him for about 21 years. He actually never got fired, he left because he had a child.”

Kristin is a writer and photographer in Ocean City, Maryland, and is the content manager for OceanCity.com and other State Ventures, LLC sites. She loves getting reader-submitted stories and photos, so send her an email anytime. She also works part-time at the Art League of Ocean City and the Ocean City Film Festival and lives just off the peninsula with her dog and fiancé. Her photos can be found on Instagram @oc_kristin.

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  1. Sue I know your out there … Butch I think owner of the bar you worked and I think Lombardi pizza.. Hehad rooms upstairs for his friends 1982 we had a great time together.

  2. Sue mcGlaughlin the beautiful woman I met 1982 who worked a couple of bars on the boardwalk… had a room upstairs

  3. Oh my goodness. Was googling Ocean City as I had a summer job there in 1980 and saw the name of my store: Evans Gems and Junk!! I wouldn’t have remembered except for seeing it written down. I was a design student from England and had the summer of my life. OC, New York, San Fran, Chicago, LA. We hitched 3.5 thousand miles that summer. Saw Hall & Oates at Crystal something venue. South side Johnny and the Asbury Dukes. Great times!!😊

  4. What I remember about OCMD in the summer of ’89 is what I believe was the original Ocean Club which was built right on the beach. There was a grove of palm trees planted nearby where people would sit. I think that It was all eventually taken out by a hurricane.

  5. I have a question for long-time OC afficionados. There was a place called the FAMOUS IRISH HOUSE, located at Talbot and Boardwalk. It was popularly known as “The House of Good Spirits.” One of their slogans was “Where the Ocean Boardwalk and Good Friends Meet.” Their phone number was AT 9-9780. Anyone recall anything about this place and when it closed down? I heard that the Purple Moose took it over, but I haven’t been able to verify that.

  6. Does anyoneremember “The Doctor’s Dilemma”? It was a house on the boards at 5th street, that was divied up into 4 apartments. We stayed there every summer in the 60’s.

  7. Does anyone remember an efficiency motel called the Nautilus? I think it was somewhere between 50th and 60th streets. I remember riding out Hurricane Agnes there as a child with my parents. I can’t find any information about it. I remember the pool filling up with sand, but the building held up. I believe it was a green, three story building.

    • Tim, I searched for that motel in the old newspapers online. I found two help wanted ads, looking for maids, from 1973. They say the Nautilus Motel was on “55th St. and Beach Highway”.

  8. One of my favorite places ever as a kid.
    I remember staying at the Monticello hotel and little motel on Wicomico street by the bay.
    There was also a great little steak house – wish I could remember the name, but it was near the park on 2nd street.
    Loved the Jolly Roger, Trumper rides, The Wild Mouse, bumper cars, bumper boats, Fun house, house of mirrors, the zipper, Boardwalk Elvis, sand sculptures, Evans Gems and Junk, rosettes and candy apples, boardwalk fries, pizza with birch beer, Dumsers, Brass Balls Saloon, Big Peckers Bar and Grill, the Bearded Clam, Purple Moose Saloon, Edward’s store, sand crabs, the year of the jellyfish, Paul Revere, Phillips, English’s chicken, Kites, dolphins and seagulls and Shanty Town across the bridge. What’s on the banner being pulled by the planes?
    OCMD – first time I caught a fish, went crabbing, caught a blowfish, rode a ski do, summer romance and had my Honeymoon there!

    • I. Grew up going to ocean city we always stayed at warrens cottages on 50 th st so much fun almost drowned at the hotel cross the street and it burned down some time in the early 70 ‘s so many memories I’m 65 now

  9. I remember going to Ocean City when I was a child. In the 1950’s ,the Boardwalk ended at 12th Street. The Beach Plaza was built during that era and it was the first brick hotel. Everyone stayed n the old wooden hotels like the George Washington, Royalton and the Mayflower. These hotels all had dining rooms serving the very best food Ocean City had to offer. Many served lunch to their guests on the beach, too. Ocean City was very much a family vacation destination. We lived in Bethesda at that time and there was only one Bay Bridge. You had to time your trip to the beach perfectly to catch the bridge when the traffic was east bound, otherwise you sat for hours on Rt 50 waiting for the bridge to change direction. Could wait for hours….

  10. I remember the man with the cassette recorder. I also remember the one who had a sign about the world ending. Yeah, as a kid, that scared me a bit, too!
    I also remember English’s Chicken House on 24th or 25th street? This was way back before they had air conditioning. They would raise up those wooden covers/shutters they had, and try to let the air in. It was still so hot!
    We used to stay at the King’s Arms, which I think is still there. A very classic, older style motel. Would love to stay there again! It was also across from the Satellite hotel. I always thought that was so cool, in it’s design and everything. It had a coffee shop, too, which I think is still in business but at another location. We used to go to Warren’s up in Fenwick Island for dinner and, again, just like English’s, no air conditioning. They would open the windows and try to get some air flowing around. The wait for a table was always so long, but, as always, the food was fantastic. In fact, it’s still fantastic today. I’m now grown, married, children, etc., and we still go to Warren’s. Love it! Oh, yeah, my parents used to talk about Melvin’s steak house with a $1.99 steak. I see that they went out of business. Anyone ever have their $1.99 steak?

    • Yes, 1968…$1.99 steak dinner: tossed salad (mostly old lettuce with french dressing) small piece of leathery steak and a baked potato, plus 35 cents extra for orange or grape drink, or iced tea. Our families, and apparently others thought this was a great vacation meal/deal because the place was always packed.

  11. One of the places that I most remember from the ’70s was the Golden Plate Restaurant. After hard partying at the bars, we used to go there and order tons of food! It probably wasn’t the best food at the time, but infused with alcohol (and maybe other things, ha, ha!) we thought it was the greatest stuff in the world! Just the camaraderie of all the other weekend drunk, crazy people, it was a blast!

  12. I loved the sand sculptures. What a gift. I also remember who I believe to be a homeless man who year after year sat at the boardwalk at the entrance to the amusement park. I’ve thought about him over the years. Wondering what his story was. He would hold a sign (which if I remember correctly) was speaking of end times?) Or having verses from the bible? Can’t remember exactly. I know he held signs and I remember as a child feeling a little frightened. Now that I am much older I’m curious as to what the signs were exactly. What was he trying to say? Any info on this? Thanks:)

  13. I was disappointed I couldn’t find a picture on here of Bozo. That guy sure was a hoot.
    High n Dry. I was one of the clowns, any pictures I had got destroyed in a fire. The only thing I have left is a write up from the beachcomber.
    I worked the tank from 1979 to 1982 when Biggie Moran the owner decided to go to wildwood NJ for reasons unknown to me we left ocean city at the end of summer in 1982. I worked wildwood for two years and in the winter of 1984 Biggie past away. That was the end of my employment his wife Agnes sold the remaining 5 stands we had. Those summers were the best times of my life, I worked every night from 7pm to 11pm then we switched. I had the Baltimore Orioles pitchers come by one time. They bought all the balls several times, when 11pm came around I jumped out of the cage I could hardly move. It took a couple hours to recoup afterwards. I would look out at hundreds of people standing around starring at me, waiting for that next victim to knock me in the water. Sometimes I would actually turn upside down, it was a bit dangerous but I got good at it. I sure do love ocean city and miss it. I’m a retired Paramedic living in Florida. Ocean City will always be in my heart.

    • I remember the BOZO stand very well! I was 12 years old back then, and would stand there for an hour or two just watching you make jokes about people. I remember you told my sisters friend you could use her nose as a ski slope. I even remember one person got so angry at you he picked up the balls and threw them at the cage hard. You entertained the hell out of me, and most people who would gather around to watch. It was 3 balls for a dollar. Unfortunately in today’s world, those raw comments would never fly! Glad to be a kid in the 80’s!!!!!

  14. Wow, this really brought back some fond memories, those were the good ole days. The Bearded Clam, Purple Moose Saloon, the Dutch bar. Yeah, I miss those days. I worked on the Ocean City Pier and loved my job. I was the one who entertained millions of people on the pier, when you walked up the midway and turned right at the shooting gallery you would find “BOZO THE WATER CLOWN” Dump Bozo in the water game, no prizes or stuffed animals to win, the prize was dunking me in the water. I was there from 1979 to 1982 there were three sometimes 4 of us clowns, my regular shift was from 7pm to 11pm four fun filled hours that sometimes was exhausting, I had pitchers from the Baltimore Orioles stop by frequently, local teams, the Purple Moose softball team ( all girls ) trying to drown me after I tossed some jokes or insults at them. My name is Frank and I will cherish the time I had in O.C. I got to meet some really nice people there from all over. I’m sure everything has changed there over time. I’m not sure what happened but 82 was the last summer there. We then set up in wildwood, NJ. The winter of 84 was a sad time for me, the owner of the stand Bernard Moran, aka BIGGIE went to the hospital in FT Lauderdale for a simple surgery and he died on the operating table. That was the end, I helped Biggies wife Agnes as much as I could but her health began to deteriorate after losing her husband. She passed away in 86. Please let me know if you were one of my victims in O.C. I’m still,
    HIGH & DRY. Take care

    • Hi, Frank K., my parents were friends of Biggie and Agnes Moran after WWII, where he hatched the idea for Bozo the Clown and the dunking tank in our living room, when Biggie came home after the Korean War. They stayed at our house, and I still have the Korean silk PJ’s he brought back for me – I was about 3 at the time. For many years, at the York Fair, my parents would help them count the quarters after the close of the fair each night, and I got lot of big stuffed teddy bears. I’m not sure what made me think of them today, and do a google search but I noticed your post, and wanted you to know that I remembered them fondly. I am sorry to hear that he died on the operating table, but did know that they had lived many years in Hollywood FL. Thank you for your post and for sharing your fond memories. Stay HIGH & DRY!

    • Hi saw you talking about Ocean City I was Jungle Jake at Gorilla Show remember upstairs one side was Gorilla Show and other side was Wax Museum I helped Fred build shops in between

    • OMG…High and dry, yak, yak, yak… My friends and I loved your schtick. We thought you all were extremely witty. Thanks for all of the entertainment. We would stand there for hours (way back of course) just to listen to you goat people into playing. Hope all is well. God bless.

    • Wow just wow I remember being a little boy on boards and seeing the dunk tank always wanted to what happened how come it just disappeared now I know Thanks Frank

    • Two things — First, I think the clown dunking booth was there until at least 1985 because I remember driving to OC and seeing it then. Second, I actually remember some of the things the clowns used to say:
      * “Hey, I like your girlfriend! What a face, what a figure, two more legs and she’d look like Trigger.”
      * “Hey, I like your (blonde) hair! You didn’t get it from your mom’s side, you didn’t get it from your dad’s side, you got it from peroxide!”
      * “Hey mister, I love those colorful shorts you’re wearing! What happened? Did your boyfriend get drunk and puke all over them?”
      High and dry, high and dry, high and dry! Eg, eg eg, eg, eg eg, eg!

    • Frank! You would hang out with a bunch of us on 5th street(1982)playing cards all night. I remember one time you called a buddy of mine “Hey-seed”because of his eastern shore accent. He could not figure out what you were saying. It was hilarious. Good luck !

  15. Lived/worked in OC summer 74 and 75….helped build Morbid Manor…worked Caseys Games…Paul Reveres. ..Playland….and a little horror house on boardwalk….I was the guy that jumped out of the cage and scared the crapp out of almost everyone…would love to talk to people that I might or may remember me…


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